19 Apr

A Tour of the Digestive System

Baking, Children, Cooking, Education, Grandparents

Over the next few weeks I am going into delve deeply into the digestive system. Many people suffer from digestive disorders. I will discuss what organs and processes are involved in eating, absorbing, digesting and finally excreting foods. Why is this important? If we understand how it works we may pay more attention to it and that in itself may help improve digestion. This is important for anyone with digestive issues but equally for us all as the saying goes you are what you eat but actually it goes further you are what you absorb!


The first organ involved in the digestive process is the brain. Soon as you start thinking about food the body starts to prepare itself for food. Digestive juices, saliva, enzymes and digestive hormones activate ready for the incoming food. A saying I hear on Australian Masterchef a lot is you eat with your eyes. Seeing food can also stimulate these juices as well as smell, taste and texture.

* Top tip*

  • One simple way to optimise digestion is to think about food before eating also cooking, setting the table are all good ways to send signals to your brain it is time to eat soon.

The mouth chews and breaks down your food to a mush so your stomach doesn’t have to! Saliva helps soften the food and also contains an enzyme called amylase. This enzyme is involved in breaking down carbohydrates. It also contains lipase which helps break down fats. Amylase is released and activated in the mouth, lipase on the other hand is not activated until food reaches the stomach. Saliva aids chewing and swallowing, it cleans the mouth, buffers PH of food, it is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal and it helps deliver important nutrients to the teeth. For the best digestion, healthy gums and teeth are essential.


*Top Tips*

  • Chew your food!
  • Drinking a lot of fluid when eating may hinder the action of saliva so try to drink fluids around eating and drink minimal amount when eating.
  • Focus on good oral hygiene.



This is a part of the body that I can NEVER pronounce! It is a tube that starts from the mouth  and leads to the stomach. Peristalsis is involved in this part of digestion, this is when food is pushed down towards the stomach. The oesophagus has a sphincter at the bottom, if working as it should it stop any food or stomach acid coming back up. It is closed most of the time but is open to allow food to travel down to the stomach. When people are bothered by heartburn type symptoms it may be because the sphincter is not working efficiently enough.


*Top Tips*

  • Slow down when you eat.
  • Don’t overeat at one sitting.
  • Eat at a table.
  • Try not to lie down immediately after eating.
  • Don’t wear tight clothing around the middle.
  • Avoid foods that may affect the tone on the sphincter: citric juices, spicy foods, tea, alcohol, mint may be a culprit or very high fat meals.

Next week I will discuss the stomach, the inner lining of the digestive tract and the small intestine.

13 Apr

Protein Powders

What are they?

Protein powders are a supplement. Consequently they are not a replacement for whole food. They do receive a negative and positive press. In researching this I have come across headlines from stay away from to powerhouse foods. So are they needed, are they good for you and does everyone need to take them.

Protein is extracted from the following foods to make a powder: rice, dairy, pea, hemp, soy and egg. Inevitably this means they are processed and it can be this part that makes people want to stay away from them. However so are other everyday foods we eat are also processed like olive oil, bread, pasta, flours, dairy products, tinned beans and even the seeds I grind (process) every morning!

I see them as a good way of increasing protein into the diet in times of need. Many people do not eat sufficient protein especially at breakfast. Adding a scoop of a protein powder into your porridge or smoothie  is an easy, fast way without much thought. As breakfast has to be easy for most of us this is an excellent way of increasing nutrition into the body.

Best sources of protein are chicken, fish, red meat, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. When you exercise intensely you do need extra protein to build and maintain muscle. In times of challenge you may need extra protein. If you don’t eat enough your body will obtain it from your own tissue. This is known as catabolic and for optimal health you want to ensure you consume enough nutrition from your food.

Processing techniques

There are various techniques used to extract protein from very high heat, adding chemicals to filtration and breaking down the proteins with water. Here is a brief summary.

Concentrates – This is a high heat and acid extraction process. This method eliminates the other components of the food such as fats and carbohydrates and leaves you with protein. Some amino acids may be denatured in this process so you may not get a complete protein profile with this method.

Isolates – again this process separates the protein from the rest of the food, this is done by either washing in alcohol, water or ionisation. These methods leave a higher level of protein than concentrates.

Hydrolyzed Protein– Water is added to the protein to break it down into amino acids.Known as an expensive way of processing protein. It is also known as pre-digested protein. However it can be bitter-tasting so not very palatable.

Ion Exchange– protein ions are separated based on their electrical charge. They do this by adding in chemicals. This method reaps higher protein levels but strips some vital nutrients.

Microfiltration– This is filtering or sieving out the unwanted nutrients from the whey to leave a whey protein with the health promoting nutrients. This process may have less protein content but will have more nutrition to it than other processing methods.

To read more on this check out the following websites: https://www.thehealthcloud.co.uk/detailed-guide-whey-protein/


Different types and recommendations

Whey – is thought to be the premium protein powder as it contains the highest concentration of complete amino acids and is easily digestible. It has been shown to enhance healthy bone metabolism. However processing techniques may compromise this. Look out for isolates and microfiltration whey based proteins.  Whey contains high levels of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCCA) (leucine, isoleucine and valine), useful for muscle recovery during sport and it also contains glutamine, important fuel for muscle synthesis.

Brands: SOLGAR Whey to go, BIOCARE Body balance, LAMBERTS All in One, Performance, PULSIN

Pea – easily digested contains high levels of lysine and BCAA for muscle recovery, glutamine for muscle repair and arginine for muscle metabolism and energy. Can be more of a savoury taste to it.


Hemp – Easy to digest, good source of fibre and omega 3,6 and 9 fatty acids. This is not as high in amino acids and you need more of it to reach protein requirements. However it is less processed and has other nutrients in it to support the body. Some people don’t like the green colour on their porridge.


Rice Protein – Useful for people with allergies to whey. It is a complete protein which means it contains all the essential amino acids. It easily digested and flavour may suit more people.  Arsenic levels may be an issue so source your product well.


Mixed plant based protein


Some green powder blends such as Udo’s Choice Beyond Greens can be taken as a protein powder, it is rich in seeds and green powders that actually have a good protein content.


They should be considered as a supplement and not a replacement for a healthy diet.

It is important to check ingredients and make sure it does not contain artificial sweeteners, sugar and unhealthy fats.

Check how it is processed. Ask manufacturer if you’re not sure.

Taste is important, not all protein powders are the same and you will have a preference. I prefer ones without anything added. I am not a fan of Stevia. I add my own flavour. That way you are in control of the nutrition and flavour. I like to add raw cacao, baobab powder, lucuma and bee pollen.

I recommend alternating protein powders so to avoid a possible intolerance to them.

Can you live without them? Absolutely. Making sure you always have protein with every meal is important and whole foods are the best source. If this is difficult or your body is challenged in one way or another they may be a useful addition to your diet. Come in and ask advice if you are not sure.



05 Apr

Adrenal Dysfunction – Lifestyle – Part 3

George Ezra Usher Hall

George Ezra Usher Hall

Is Lifestyle Important?

I was lucky enough to see George Ezra at the weekend live in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. His new album Staying at Tamara’s (I highly recommend) is about ‘daydreaming and escapism’. The final part of the adrenal dysfunction focuses on that. Escape doesn’t have to be a holiday, you can escape to your bath, bed or for a walk in nature. Daydreaming is something we all should do a little more of. Ezra says his creativity happens when he is away from home. Holidays can do this for us. I always come back from holiday with fresh ideas. Perhaps because I have relaxed and refreshed my adrenals, so apart from a holiday what else can you do?

  • Take time out for yourself every day. Read, have a bath, exercise, bake something, knit, dance, sing – whatever it is just do it!
  • Treat yourself – indulge in your favourite movie or box set. Buy yourself a nice candle or favourite bar of dark chocolate. Go out with a friend for a walk, even cooking yourself your favourite meal.
  • Try breathing exercises. Doesn’t have to be candles burning sitting cross legged. Simply breathe in for 4 and out for 4, then in for 4 out for 6, in for 4 and out for 8 – build up to this if it is difficult, for 3-5 minutes every day. You’re in breath activates the flight or fight part of the nervous system and the out breath activates the relaxed response, so if you can focus longer on the outbreath then this will activate a relaxed feeling.
  • Green tea may be supportive as it contains an amino acid called l-theanine, that helps make a brain chemical that makes you feel relaxed. It is also rich in antioxidants. Try adding a slice of lemon helps you absorb these wonderful properties even more.
  • Exercise is an interesting one when addressing adrenals. Over exercising may make symptoms worse. However activity in some form may help. Walking, gentle swimming, stretching, yoga and Pilates are all examples of exercise that may be helpful. Start slowly. If you are already doing HIIT 3 times a week or running, cycling excessively, try reducing or even stopping for 2-3 weeks. It could make a huge difference to your performance and the way you feel.
  • Sleep is important and optimising it may really support the stress response. Find ways to help with sleep. Read more here.
  • Try meditation – Calm or Insight Timer Apps are useful if it is new to you.
  • Change one thing at a time and make the change doable.
Specific  Nutrients
  • Adaptogens may be helpful and I have a useful blog on this here.
  • Magnesium is involved in the relaxation of muscles and nerves it is also needed to make stress hormones. Epsom Salts are high in magnesium and research shows it can be absorbed well through the skin.
  • Vitamin C – is highly concentrated in the adrenal glands. It is needed with magnesium and Vitamin B5 for the production of cortisol. You do not need huge levels of it and best to take throughout the day so you have a continual dose.
  • B vitamins are needed for adrenal function. B5 is particular stands out as needed to make glucose into energy. B vitamins are best taken together as they work in synergy. However B vitamins also give you energy and may for some be too stimulating, some people may need a lower dose.

The Adrenal Stress Index is a salivary test that will measure stress hormones and their pattern throughout the day. It will show if they are out of kilter, this may help with discipline to make changes. More information here.

In essence slow down, take care and love yourself, in the words of Ezra from Pretty Shining People “Don’t we all need love. The answer is easy”.